CricViz Analysis: Wicket Probability in England v India

CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde identifies standout Wicket Probability numbers from England’s Test series against India.

EXCEPTIONALLY DIFFICULT BATTING

One of the enduring themes of the 2018 English Test season was the dominance of ball over bat, and in particular the rate at which wickets fell. Indeed, the aggregate strike rate of 50.9 balls per dismissal is the second lowest in any season of Test cricket in England since 1907.

Analysis of tracking-only Wicket Probability suggests that a significant reason for this decline was the level of batting difficulty this season. In no English season in the CricViz ball-tracking database (starting in 2006) has the average tracking only Wicket Probability been higher than the 1.97% this year.

A wicket probability of 1.97% means that in strike rate terms we would expect a wicket to fall every 50.8 deliveries (100 divided by 1.97). Given that a wicket fell every 50.9 deliveries we can conclude that batsmen performed at a typical level given the conditions and the quality of the bowling, meaning that falling strike rates can largely be attributed to those factors rather than a decline in batting standards.

Batsmen on all sides have been criticised this summer for failing to score at typical levels but Wicket Probability puts the challenge they’ve faced into context. Batting rarely gets tougher than this.

THE ULTIMATE TEST

In fact, since 2006 batting has never been more difficult than it was in the second Test of the series at Lord’s. The match—played on a green, seam-friendly pitch and under leaden skies—saw an average Wicket Probability of 2.31% – the highest average Wicket Probability of any Test match in the CricViz ball tracking database. India have had it tough this year – the second highest ranked Test was their match against South Africa in Johannesburg in February.

INDIA OUT-BOWL ENGLAND

Across the series the raw statistics show that England—with a strike rate of 48.0—took wickets 9.0 deliveries more often than India—with a strike rate of 57.0. However, raw statistics are dependent on many variables out of the bowler’s control such the shot selection and execution of the batsmen, pure luck and the quality of catching fielders. Although it remains influenced by conditions, Tracking Only Wicket Probability is arguably a more effective measure of bowling quality. Across the series India’s average Wicket Probability of 1.94%—higher than England’s 1.88%, suggests their attacking threat was greater than that of the hosts.

INDIA’S SEAMERS DOMINATE

Analysing Wicket Probability by bowler illustrates how well India—and their seamers in particular—bowled. India’s three frontline seamers – Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma – occupy three of the top four spots in terms of tracking only Wicket Probability with only Chris Woakes – who played just one Test at Lord’s, above them. Unsurprisingly given the conditions the top of the rankings are dominated by pace bowlers, however, it is illustrative of how well Moeen Ali bowled that he features seventh on the list, above swing bowlers James Anderson and Sam Curran.

KARTHIK’S NIGHTMARE

Analysing the tracking only average Wicket Probability by batsman is a useful way of providing context to a batsman’s performance. Dinesh Karthik faced 58 balls in the series and was dismissed four times at an average of 5.25. Meagre returns? Of course. But the average Wicket Probability for deliveries bowled to him of 3.00% is exceptionally high and gives an indication that he, unlike his replacement Rishabh Pant, faced a lot of very good deliveries.

ASSESSING SURVIVAL ABILITY

This kind of data will be useful for selectors. Keaton Jennings’ place in England’s team is under threat after a barren series in which he has averaged just 18.11. However, this was clearly a difficult summer for batting with ball-tracking data showing that the ball swung and seamed extravagantly but more specifically Wicket Probability shows that Jennings faced some of the best deliveries of the series with a tracking only Wicket Probability higher than his partner Alastair Cook or indeed more than his opposite numbers Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul.

By extrapolating average Wicket Probability to an Expected Tracking Dismissal Rate (for example 2.00% equates to an Expected Tracking Dismissal Rate of 50.00) and by taking that figure away from the batsman’s real Dismissal Rate it is possible to deduce whether a batsman has under-performed or over-performed based on the deliveries they have faced. This figure is presented below as Survival Ability.

A positive figure represents a batsman surviving longer than we would expect based on the balls they have faced and a negative figure represents a batsman surviving for less than we would expect based on the balls they have faced.

By this measure Jennings—who has a Survival Ability of -0.96 (45.0 minus 45.96) might be deserving of another chance. Rahul considerably out-performed his opening partners Vijay and Dhawan while Jonny Bairstow’s Survival Ability of -11.91 is indicative of a series punctuated by loose dismissals. The players with the highest Survival Ability are those that generally dominated the series in terms of run-scoring.  

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